O HUMA FREE WILL.

BY THE REV. S. LEE, B.D.
Having discussed these questions as far as it seemed
necessary to our purpose, we now come to offer a few re-
marks on the doctrine of what has been termed the freedom
of the will. We shall not stop here to discuss the propriety
or impropriety of the terms, freedom of the ^oiU,free ivill, 8cc.
it being sufficiently manifest that they involve an absurdity ;
because, whether right or wrong, our inquiry would gain
nothing by doing so. In considering this question, then, we
shall proceed rather with reference to things than to words :
because it is from these alone that any good conclusion can be
expected.
The first question, then, will be : Is the human mind per-
fectly at liberti/ to think and determine, without reference to
any other consideration, or is it only partially so? My an-
swer is : I know of no absolute restraint placed on the opera-
tions of the human mind : neither Scripture, reason, nor
experience, speaks of any such restraint ; and so far we may
conclude that there is nonel Man may, as far as we can see,
will, purpose, plan, &c., the wildest things imaginable : and,
from the vast abundance of such phenomena in the intel-
lectual world, we may, perhaps, rest assured that no restraint,
either natural or supernatural, has been imposed in these
respects.
There is, however, another faculty implanted in man,
called Reason, the business of which is carefully to consi-
der the nature both of thoughts and of things, and then to
determine (which is n^ixaed judging), whether such thoughts
or things ought or ought not to be entertained ; and then to
act as counsellor in directing the conduct of the individual.
ow, so far as this faculty interferes with the ^vill, its liberty
must be curtailed;* that is to say, whenever reason deter-.
• And in tlie degree to whicli a man lays claim to the character of a
rational agent, in the same will the freedom of his loill be controlled. lie,
therefore, who approximates nearest to perfection, must in the same
propor-
tion be regulated in his thoughts, words, and deeds, by prmvyVes which
he
has found to be good. He will, consequently, be less than any other man
the subject of caprice ; more than any other, actuated by those laws
which
he knows to be most advantageous to human society, and best
calculated
to honour its Author: in other words, he will be the best Christian; the
70 O HUMA FREE WILL. [dISS. I.
mines that a thought, action, or project, is such as ought not
to be entertained, the individual is bound, unless he give up
the claim of being considered a rational creature, no longer
to entertain such thought, action, or project. For example,
I am at liberty to suppose that two and two will make six ;
or, that a telescope may be made so powerful as to enable me
to discover of what specific form the particles composing the
disk of the moon, or of any one of the planets, are; and in
either or both of these positions I may persevere : but when
I have been shewn that the one is absolutely, and the other
¦physically impossible, I am no longer at liberty (unless I claim
the privilege of a fool or a madman) to entertain those opi-
nions. A motive now has been proposed, if not a violent one, as
Paley would term it, yet one so potent as to insure the con-
clusion, that I can no longer continue to hold those positions.
In cases such as these, therefore, although the power of
volition may be possessed to an indefinite extent theoreti-
cally, yet no such power can exist in practice; at least in
those who lay claim to reason in any degree. Where the
reason is, indeed, weak, ill-informed, or perverted, the deci-
sion may be wrong, but it must always be made ; and when
this is done, the liberty of the will is limited.
ow, if we trace cases downwards, from those presenting
the highest to those presenting the lowest degrees of proba-
bility, we shall at last arrive at those in which we may either
have no knowledge, or probabilities may be so nearly balanced
as to leave nothing on which the judgment can fix : in these
cases, then, the Will will remain entirely unfettered. If, for
example, two friends were to propose to me for decision the
question, whether the language of the Old or ew Testament
will be the medium of intercourse among the blest ; my an-
swer must be : You are a.t perfect liberty to adopt which side
best citizen of the world ; and the person best prepared to be translated
to a more perfect state of being. or will this entire subjection to
principle
in any way diminish the power of refusing the evil and choosing the
good ;
on the contrary, this will strengthen it in the greatest possible degree.
Where
another man will doubt and hesitate eternally, the man of principle will
act at
once, and he will act rightly. His law provides for consequences ;
hesitation
is with him out -of place. Such an one, therefore, will be the best
example
of a decided character ; a distinction to which all think it creditable at
least to
lay claim.
SECT. IX.] O HUMA FREE WILL. 71
of the question you please, because I know of nothing what-
ever likely to influence the judgment of either of you. And
again, if two persons, in every respect equally well qualified
and recommended, should solicit an office which I may have v,
to dispose of; I conceive, reason and judgment would have
nothing to do in the case, and that I should be left per-
fectly at liberty to exercise my Will. The number or the
different shades of cases which will fall between these ex-
tremes, will be exceedingly great, while those which occupy "^
the extreme places very small; and consequently, those cases ^
which will be so cogent as to carry conviction with them to C
every mind ; as also those left entirely to the Will, or what is ^s^
generally termed the caprice, will be few. In the great mass, •
reason and judgment must predominate ; but this rarely to
such a degree as to preclude all possibility of doubt ; be- /^
cause we are not possessed of experience sufficient to see and ^
judge clearly of all the bearings of every question. ^
The powers of the mind, in this respect, seem to be very
much on a par with those of the body. Any man not fet-
tered, or otherwise not deprived of the use of his limbs, may
use them in any way he pleases, as far as nature and circum-
stances will allow him. He may, for example, knock down,
maim, or stab, the first person he meets : he may dance, sing,
lie down, stand on his head, or put himself into any position
whatsoever, provided no common law of society control him.
But if this be the case, he will find it to be most conducive
to his own happiness to do no such things ; which will, per-
haps, be a motive sufficiently potent to make a good member
of society of him. But here, as before, innumerable cases
(usually termed cases of conscience) may occur, in which it
may be extremely difficult to say what it is best to do. In
such, analogy is the safest guide, and this involves an ope-
ration of reason ; and therefore, where the line of duty is
clear, the prudent man will not hesitate to submit; where it
is not so, the safe side, if this be apparent, must be taken : but ^
where no such thing is discernible, the Will alone must deter- ^
mine what is to be done ; and, indeed, from the moment pru-
dence suggests caution, reason, where it has materials to work
;^ upon, can alone be relied on in directing the conduct of the "^
¦ individual.
. -^ It may now be asked : How do the doctrines of our Scrip-
72 O HUMA FREE WILL. [dISS. I.
ture fall in with these properties of the human mind ? I
answer : In the most suitable way possible. The judgment,
which must control the will, is called upon in the most for-
cible manner, and urged to determine on a question the most
momentous. The person appealing is no less than the Au-
thor of our nature, and our future Judge ; and the appeal is
made in terms the most rational, kind, and affectionate. On
a question so far exceeding human powers, instruction the
best adapted to the case is proposed ; and, what is most re-
markable, while this professes to come from a world of spirits,
and is, what it professes to be, clearly beyond the human
intellect to fabricate, it, nevertheless, introduces nothing be-
yond our faculties to comprehend (as far as comprehension is
necessary), or our natural powers to accept. What it recom-
mends too, may be shewn, not only to be the most advanta-
geous to us as men, but, what must stamp an incalculable value
upon it, it has never been found to fail in its application to prac-
tice. Like the best philosophy, its truth in theory has been
confirmed by experiment, and this through a period of nearly
six thousand years. Of the external evidences for its truth I
will now say no more, than that they are scarcely short of mi-
raculous. o other book can cite in its favour the testimony
of both friends and foes, nor can any be found receiving so
much confirmation from the sciences both of ancient and
modern times. Its morality is not only good, but authori-
tative : its promises and threats are not merely probable, but
certain. Its property is to impart the most useful knowledge
in the most effectual way ; and to afford hope, consolation,
safety, prosperity, health, and happiness, where every thing
else has failed.
ow, I will ask, if such a document be placed before a
being possessed with the powers of volition and of reason,
such as man confessedly is. What must be his situation ? Is
he, as a rational being, at liberty to withhold his assent and
obedience to the requirements of such a book ? I think
not ; but that he is bound to submit. But if he choose (and
this he may do, no violent restraint being laid upon his will)
to withhold both assent and obedience, this will be done at
his peril. Like the fool or the madman, he may in any case
rush on his own ruin ; and eminently so in this. To expect
to be restrained from the possibility of error in the matter of
SECT. X.] DIGRESSIO. 73
religion,* would be to expect something unlike the pheno-
mena of both the natural and moral world, and manifestly
repugnant to the question of fact. To wait, therefore, for im-
pulses great and overpowering, such as indeed our Scrip-
tures no where promise, but which are held out only by a
philosophy meagre and wretched in the extreme, must in
every case tend to annihilate the beamings of hope, and to
reduce faith to a mere phantom. The dreary wilderness
through which the pilgrim has to wind his way, with a light,
strong indeed, and steady in its horizon, must, in such cases,
increase in darkness and perplexity at every step. The rod
and staff, which, under other circumstances, might have
proved a permanent means of comfort and of support, will
now become those of the oppressor, heavy and insupport-
able ; and that dawning of hope which was once wont to be
the traveller's benison, now end only in despair and ruin.
In the faithfulness, mercy, and compassions of a kind Creator,
however, we have that which suits our capacities, such as
they are, provides for our wants, and will stimulate our best
endeavours. The penny afforded to the last labourer, while
it forbids any to delay, holds out grounds of hope to the
longest-lost prodigal : and the most wretched and destitute
both in life and godliness can, with such encouragements
before him, still aspire to the acquisition of the best robe, and
to feast on the bounties of a forgiving and kind Parent: in
these the energies of hope will meet him in every day's life,
and the helps of grace make him more than a conqueror :
earth present an arena whereon he can contend successfully
for a crown, and heaven the kingdom where he shall for ever
wear it.
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